Case Study: Now, AI Can Spot Fashion Trends


A leading fashion retailer with movie credits needed to keep up with sudden spikes in demand.

Name of Organization: Carhartt, Inc.

Industry: Retail

Location: Dearborn, MI

Opportunity or Challenge Encountered: The fashion and apparel business may seem glamorous, but manufacturers and retails in this industry need to constantly stay tuned to the latest trends, as fashion is a fickle market. When a trend emerges, fashion and apparel brands must move quickly to catch the wave to capture sales. For Carhartt, an apparel manufacturer and retailer, the challenge was to be able to identify spikes in consumer demand and optimize its marketing and merchandising strategies.

Manual methods of tracking just weren’t cutting it. “In the past, we relied heavily on a spreadsheet-based approach to determine how our digital merchandising strategies were performing,” Anna Cole, director of e-commerce at Carhartt., related in a case study. “However, because we had to pivot between so many different systems to collect the data we needed, it took at least a full working week to build our reports. If we needed to dive deeper into one of our categories, creating a granular view could take even longer.”

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Carhartt brands are often featured in movies and social media, and it was taking too long to capitalize on sudden bursts of publicity. “Before Interstellar was released, the jacket that Matthew McConaughey was wearing wasn’t one of our bestselling items—but as soon as people started seeing the movie, the look blew up,” Cole relates. “It took us a week to identify that trend, and we knew we’d missed out on a significant opportunity. To help us get in front of fast-changing customer preferences, we looked for a way to accelerate and enhance our analytics processes.”

How This Opportunity or Challenge Was Met: To deliver a real-time alerting system to its store buyers, merchandisers, and distribution channels, Carhartt turned to artificial intelligence. The company deployed IBM Watson Commerce Insights, an AI-powered solution that delivers real-time information on business performance to merchandisers and marketers. Carhartt integrated the system with data emanating from its ERP, planning and e-commerce platforms.

The system was configured to enable merchandisers to zero in on the performance of key elements of an event or season to view real-time performance metrics. The system also includes performance workspaces, it provides business visibility to the best and worst performers, top-level category comparison and overall site performance. The merchandiser can create and configure workspaces that meet promotional or seasonal needs to view and monitor specific categories and products that are key to that event.

Benefits from This Initiative: The system highlights in-demand products in real time, enabling better customer experiences. It also empowers merchandisers to make better-informed decisions and boost conversions. It also delivers insights for senior managers instantly, improving operational effectiveness. “We can now see where people are clicking on our site and the points where people are cutting short their journeys,” says Cole. “These insights are enabling us to make adjustments that help lift conversion—for example, by moving popular products to more prominent positions to capture customers’ attention.” In addition, the system alerts Carhartt managers to slowing sales as well.

(Source: IBM)

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